Ippolito Nièvo, writer and patriot

Writer and Patriot (born in Padua in 1831 – died in a shipwreck in 1861)

Ippolito Nievo spent his childhood in Soave from 1832 until 1837.  He lived in Palazzo Pullici next to the Palazzo della Giustizia where his father worked as a judge.

In 1848, the young Ippolito, having become fascinated by Mazzini and Cattaneo’s democratic program, participated in the failed Mantua rebellion.

Having become disappointed with the Italian political situation, in 1855, he retreated to Colloredo di Montalbano, where he dedicated himself attentively to writing, as well as mentally laying out what would become his masterpiece, The Confessions of an Italian. This novel provides an imposing portrait of an epoch, a grandiose saga of the Italian fight for unification, the Risorgimento.  It forms the transitional bridge between the historical novel of the early Romantic period and the realistic Verism novels of the latter part of the 1800s.

In 1859, he was among Garibaldi’s Alpine Hunters and the next year Nievo participated in the Spedizione dei Mille, number 690 of Garibaldi’s thousand who set off to unify the peninsula.  He also served as the treasurer of this fighting force.  In this period, his brothers also decided to enroll, doing so in the Savoy army, however.

Joining Garibaldi’s troops, Nievo embarked in Genoa May 5th, 1860 on the Lombardo, along with Nino Bixio and Cesare Abba.  After distinguishing himself in the battle of Calatafimi and in Palermo, he was promoted to colonel and took on administrative assignments.  He was also a careful chronicler of the expedition (with his Diary of the Expedition from May 5th to 28th and The Garibaldi Letters).

The young colonel was given the assignment of bringing back from Sicily all the administrative documents and receipts from the expedition’s expenses, and he boarded a ship along with captains Maggiolini and Salviati, two majors and other members of the military administration.  He died during the voyage from Palermo to Naples, during the night between March 4th and 5th, 1861, when the steamship Ercole sunk along the Sorrento coastline within view of the Bay of Naples.  All passengers died in the incident, and no bodies were recovered.